"Contract Year" Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers will have two "contract year" receivers to throw to -
Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed - for lack of a better word - is good. Greed is right. Greed works," said Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko in the movie "Wall Street."

It can certainly help when making the decision on which player to select on Draft Day. While competitors may play "for the love of the game" we also have to be realistic in that it is a job. And the better year you have, the more you get paid.

So let's begin our look at fantasy players in their "contract year" with quarterbacks where at least four starting fantasy signal callers are in the final year of their current deal.

It's hard for me to see Philip Rivers leaving the beautiful Southern California weather and high-octane Chargers offense for "greener pastures," but just in case he is thinking about making a move, his numbers might go even higher than last year. Rivers, with 275 fantasy points, was already the No.3 scoring fantasy QB behind Drew Brees (335) and Jay Cutler (288), so a more focused player could challenge for the top spot. He'll also have two "contract year" receivers to throw to - Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers.

Matt Cassel might be more focused too, but he won't have Randy Moss or Wes Welker in his offensive arsenal. Instead he'll have Dwayne Bowe and not much more since Tony Gonzalez, the Hall-of-Fame-to-be tight end, is now in Atlanta. Cassel's numbers could go down, he was 10th overall in 2008, unless the Chiefs use last year's wide-open "Pistol" offense.

Chad Pennington had the best fantasy season of his nine-year career. He threw for more yards than in any other season and had his second-best touchdown total. The Dolphins drafted two receivers in the third and fourth rounds (Patrick Turner, Brian Hartline) and a tight end in the fifth round (John Nalbone), but they also drafted West Virginia quarterback Pat White with their second-round selection. White won't unseat Pennington, but could be brought in to run the team's "Wildcat" offense. I'm not sure Pennington can repeat his 2008 numbers given this group of receivers even with the added incentive.

Jason Campbell threw just three interceptions all season, but also only connected on 13 TD passes - not enough to make him a viable fantasy quarterback. Unless Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly develop into quality receivers, Campbell's targets will look the same as last year - Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and Chris Cooley. I don't see Campbell becoming a starting fantasy quarterback anytime soon.

Eli Manning was a different quarterback without Plaxico Burress. Over the final four games of the season, with Burress on suspension, Manning failed to throw for even 200 yards in any game. Unless first-round pick Hakeem Nicks or third- round selection Ramses Barden develop into great receivers in their rookie season, not even the incentive of a huge contract will make Manning a good fantasy quarterback. Expect the Giants to feature the running game even more than usual and they were already the No.1 rushing offense in the NFL (157.4 ypg).

Possibly the most interesting case for "contract year" quarterback is Kyle Orton, new starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He has huge shoes to fill as Cutler was the No.2 fantasy quarterback last season. He'll have quality receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal and an athletic rookie running back in Knowshon Moreno.

But Orton has never thrown for 3,000 yards in a season or more than 18 touchdowns. In his two full seasons in Denver, Cutler never threw for less than 3,497 yards and 20 scores. If the Broncos continue to put the ball in the air, Orton's fantasy value could go through the roof. He was the No.17 fantasy quarterback in 2008 with Chicago (159 points) and so far in early mock drafts his value has only been projected a little higher. Orton could surprise people in 2009.

Contract Year Quarterbacks - 2008 Statistics
Philip RiversSD3124784,0093411
Matt Cassel #1KC3275163,6932111
Chad PenningtonMIA3214763,653197
Jason CampbellWAS3055063,245133
Eli ManningNYG2894793,2382110
Kyle Orton #2DEN2724652,9721811

#1 = Stats accumulated while with New England.
#2 - Stats accumulated while with Chicago.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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